Walk to Freedom across the Pyrenees

Trek the Chemin de la Liberte the WWII escape route to Spain




From $1,220 Land only

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Holiday Overview


  • Hike from France to Spain on this historic trail
  • A short and challenging 4 day trekking holiday in the Pyrenees
  • Some of the best mountain views in the Pyrenees
  • Free day in the French beautiful spa town of Luchon

The ‘Chemin de la Liberte' was the toughest of several escape routes across the Pyrenees during the Second World War; you can follow in the footsteps of history, from France to Spain, on this wonderful week long trekking holiday. Running from Saint-Girons in the Ariege district of France to near the village of Isil in Spain, the Chemin de la Liberte, or Walk to Freedom, has been an official way-marked walk since 1994 and can be completed as an excellent and challenging 4-day hike. After our first night in a comfortable chateau in Saint-Girons, once the German border forces HQ, our journey begins. Starting out the forested foothills of the Pyrenees we climb to cross the high mountains of the Ariege via the Refuge des Estagnous (2245m) and the Frontier Col (2522m). En route, we will pass safe houses and barns used as hiding places by the escapees and encounter rocky cirques, mountain lakes, boulder-fields and possibly snow-filled gullies, whilst marvelling at some of the finest mountain views in the Pyrenees.  Our journey's end is at an excellent tapas bar in Val d'Aran, where we can celebrate the end of our 'walk to freedom'. Finally, we drive back across the border into France and end our adventure with a two night stay and a free day in the charming spa town of Luchon.

Is this holiday for you?

This trekking holiday is a traverse from France into Spain over the Pyrenees. We stay in a mix of chateau, rural gite, mountain refuge and we have one night either wild camping or in a basic shepherd's shelter or cabane. We will also have to carry all the belongings we need for 2.5days including a light sleeping bag, sleeping mat, a small stove, your own pack lunches and a share of 1 nights food provisions. The trek involves walking on a waymarked trail over variety of terrain including forest paths, Alpine meadows and over rocky passes. The trails used for the most part offer good underfoot conditions but there are several off piste sections where we will cross boulders and others where we may encounter patches of winter snow. A few places along the route involve some easy scrambling with some exposure. We average around 7 to 9 hours walking each day with typically approx 700 metres of ascent and / or descent on most days.

Brief Itinerary

View in full
  • Meet at the group hotel in St Girons. A single transfer from Toulouse Airport is provided.
  • Start at Pont le Chemin de Liberte, and enjoy the long walk through rolling hills to Aunac (766m).
  • Today walk through beech forest and a along section of the GR10 to the cabane at Subera (1499m).
  • A hard day walk today, over the Col de Craberous (2382m) and descent to Refuge d'Estagnous (2245m).
  • Walk and cross into Spain at the Frontier Col (2522m), descend to Arties. Transfer to Luchon.
  • Free day in Luchon.
  • Departure day. A single transfer to Toulouse Airport is provided.
Sun 10 Jul - Sat 16 Jul Code WTF /01/16/ Adult$1,220 Status Guaranteed Book now
Sun 31 Jul - Sat 06 Aug Code WTF /02/16/ Adult$1,220 Status Guaranteed Book now
We sell this holiday on a Land Only basis and recommend that you book your flights to Toulouse Airport. Please refer to the 'Joining Arrangements and Transfers' section of the holiday dossier for further details.

Flights SHOULD NOT be booked until you have received your booking confirmation and the trip is showing 'Guaranteed to Run' or 'Limited'.

If flying from the UK Easyjet will be the best low cost airline offering flights to Toulouse. Easyjet have flights from Gatwick & Bristol and British Airways have flights from Heathrow. Other airports may be available. Click on the 'Flight information' link below for further information on booking low cost airlines. Alternatively if you would prefer to book a 'flight inclusive package' using scheduled airlines from the UK please contact our flights department for a quote. Whilst flight prices are likely to be more expensive you will benefit from full financial protection.

BOOK WITH KE CONFIDENCE - No surcharge guarantee*

* Against Land Only services.

Map & Itinerary

The Route

  • point
  • trip direction
  • trek
  • transfer

Holiday Itinerary

  • Meet at the group hotel in St Girons. A single transfer from Toulouse Airport is provided.

    KE Land Only package services begin with overnight at our accommodation in St Girons. A single transfer from Toulouse Airport is provided. Our journey into history begins here as this chateau was requisitioned by the Germans during WW2, and is situated on the aptly named 'Avenue de la Resistance'. We arrive in the afternoon and have some time to relax and meet the guide. The guide will give a briefing on the days ahead and distribute a 3-day lunch pack to group members. We have a back up vehicle for the first day and a half so we are able to travel light until we say goodbye to the support staff at the Col de la Core. Our clean clothes are transported to Luchon for the end of the trek.

    • Accommodation Hotel

  • Start at Pont le Chemin de Liberte, and enjoy the long walk through rolling hills to Aunac (766m).

    After breakfast we say our farewells and embark on our trek. Our start point is the Pont le Chemin de la Liberte, inaugurated in 1995 after the old iron bridge was demolished for safety reasons. It was at this bridge that the driver sounded his whistle for the escapees to jump from the moving train and hastily collected by the Resistance and hurried into the woods. The escapees would walk this whole route in the night to ensure that they were not seen. Luckily we can enjoy the trek in the daylight with the beautiful backdrop of the mountains. This first day is a long one, but with only modest ascent and descent as we make our way to the first night's accommodation in Aunac (766m). Here we overnight in the gite set high up on the hillside with wonderful views across the Ariège, run by Francois and Claudine who prepare a superb dinner with vegetables from their own garden and locally sourced meat. Both breakfast and dinner are usually taken al fresco when the weather is fine.

    • Accommodation Gite / Hostel

    • Ascent 1070m

    • Distance 23km

    • Meals bld

    • Descent 675m

    • Time 8 - 9 hours walking

  • Today walk through beech forest and a along section of the GR10 to the cabane at Subera (1499m).

    After breakfast we leave the gite at Aunac and, still walking with day packs we continue on our route over the Pyrenees towards 'freedom' and Spain. We walk through bracken and beech forests today giving us some welcome shade and coolness. Continuing onwards we walk along a section of the famous GR10 to the Col de la Core. Here, we rendezvous with our support driver and our bags for one last time before we commit to the high mountain. Now carrying our full loads we cut south under the Crete de Balame, climbing for another 2.5hrs until we reach the simple cabane Subera (1499m) by the rock wall of the Cirque de Lameza. The Cabane has had a recent make over and, though simple, now has several bunks and a fire place; a nearby stream allows us the opportunity to wash and there are wonderful views back to the north. If the cabane is occupied we will camp nearby.

    • Accommodation Gite / Hostel

    • Ascent 1370m

    • Distance 16km

    • Meals bld

    • Descent 650m

    • Time 5 - 6 hours walking

  • A hard day walk today, over the Col de Craberous (2382m) and descent to Refuge d'Estagnous (2245m).

    Leaving the cabane we embark on our hardest day, with some challenging height gain! We pay our respects to the crew of the Halifax bomber, which crashed into Pic de Lampau. Remains of the wreckage still litter the ground and there is a simple memorial plaque set in the rock close by. Leaving this site we continue upwards to reach the Col de Craberous (2382m), the final ascent can still hold some snow early in the summer. We can enjoy some great views here while we stop for a breather before the steep descent for 300m to another small cabane where we can resupply with water. After a succession of lakes we start climbing up again initially through boulders before long granite slabs lead us to the Col de Pouech (2494m) from where we can see the Refuge d’Estagnous (2245m) below us. We have a warm welcome here from the guardians and the promise of a hot shower and cold beer! For those with energy left there is a chance to climb Mt Valier just above the refuge.

    • Accommodation Mountain Hut / Refuge

    • Ascent 1390m

    • Distance 13km

    • Meals bld

    • Descent 640m

    • Time 7 - 8 hours walking

  • Walk and cross into Spain at the Frontier Col (2522m), descend to Arties. Transfer to Luchon.

    An early start on our last day of trekking. Leaving the Refuge we descend to Lac Rond, before climbing again for 200m. A narrow path leads up by the side of a water course and then traverses left to meet the Etang Long. Although a little exposed, this is a short stretch and there are cables in place. After a short break we begin the last push to the Frontier Col at 2522m. No need for our passports here as we cross into Spain and enjoy a long descent to the Noguera Palaresa River stopping for a snack and an optional swim in the Lac de Clauère – and Freedom for the escapees during WWII. We follow the river to the end of our trek at the Refuge del Fortet where we meet our pick up vehicles and transfer the short distance to the village of Arties where we have a well-earned beer and a chance to sample some of the Val d’Aran’s best tapas for a late lunch. After eating our fill we jump back on the vehicle for the 1hr journey back into France and the lodge near Luchon where we overnight.

    • Accommodation Chalet

    • Ascent 200m

    • Distance 10km

    • Meals bd

    • Descent 1245m

    • Time 7 hours walking

  • Free day in Luchon.

    A free day in Luchon. We can go for short local walk, or maybe do some cycling either off road or on some of the Tour de France’s most famous Cols. There are options to have a soak in the thermal baths, or simply relax in Luchon with its pleasant cafes and restaurants.

    • Accommodation Chalet

    • Meals b

  • Departure day. A single transfer to Toulouse Airport is provided.

    KE group package services end after breakfast and a single timed transfer to Toulouse Airport is provided.

    • Meals b

Holiday Information

  • Local professional English speaking guide
  • Single timed returned transfers from Toulouse Airport
  • All transfers within the itinerary
  • Meals as detailed in the meal plan

  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas (if applicable)
  • Tips
  • Optional activities on free day
  • Miscellaneous expenses - drinks and souvenirs etc

For each holiday there is a minimum number of participants required to enable it to go ahead. Once the minimum number is reached, the trip status will change from 'Available' to 'Guaranteed to run'. You can check the trip status for each departure in ‘Dates and Prices’ table. Other than in exceptional circumstances, we will not cancel a trip once it has achieved this guaranteed to run status and so you are free to proceed with your international flight booking and other travel arrangements.

A single timed group transfer from Toulouse Airport to the accommodation in St Girons is provided. It takes around 1 hour 20 minutes to drive from Toulouse to St Girons. The transfer is timed to meet the Easyjet flight from London Gatwick or the British Airways flight from London Heathrow which arrive late afternoon. The return transfer leaves the accommodation in Luchon after lunch to meet with the late afternoon flight departing from Toulouse. This return transfer takes around 2 and half hours.

Anyone may use these transfers but it is your responsibility to check the timings of this flight prior to departure as schedules can change.
If your flight schedules do not permit you to take advantage of these transfers you will need to make your own transfer arrangements.

Hotel contact details and an emergency number will be provided with your booking confirmation.

During this trip the group will spend 1 night at the Chateau in St Girons. Whilst on trek you spend 1 night at a rural gite in a non-segregated dormitory with shared facilities, 1 night in a mountain refuge (with showers) and 1 night either in a simple cabane (no bathroom facilities) or wild camping close by. At the end of the trek you have 2 nights at the comfortable Alpine style lodge of La Fenière. La Fenière is situated in the Vallee du Lys a few miles from Bagnères de Luchon. The 200 year old stone building is actually a converted barn with a great open fire place and dining area with mountain views. There are 5 twin rooms with wash basins. Powerful modern showers and the toilets are separate. The living area is spacious and has a bar as well as board games, books, ipod docking station and WIFI for guests. No single supplement is available during this trip. Additional nights in St Giron and Luchon are available please contact the office for prices. Accommodation in St Girons, Luchon and while camping is based on twin sharing. If you are travelling by yourself you will be paired up with another single client of the same sex.

View the gallery below for images of the style of accommodation used

Whilst trekking we will have to carry our own share of food provisions with us for 1 dinner, 1 breakfast, 3 lunches and any snacks. Your guide will distribute these provisions amongst the group on the evening on day 1 in St Girons. We will have dinner provided by the wardens at the huts/refuges on day 2 and day 4. Breakfast once in the mountains will simply consist of bread, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and some jam. Lunch will be bread, cheese and meats. Dinner on day 3 will be co-ordinated by the guide and will be mainly dehydrated food (pasta etc..). Dinners in the Refuge and at La Feniere will be wholesome mountain food and usually 3 courses. You may wish to bring along some additional snacks of your own (granola bars, chocolate bars or sweeties) for your trekking days and to supplement breakfast in the mountains.

All breakfasts, a 3-day expedition lunch pack and 4 dinners are included in the holiday price. You will need to pay for 1 dinner on day 1 in St Girons and 1 night in Luchon. The only lunches not included are at the Tapas restaurant in Arties on day 5 and in Luchon on day 6. These non-included meals give you the opportunity for flexibility and choice on those days.

We estimate that €200 will be sufficient to cover all personal expenses including the not included meals and some beverages. This should also allow you to pay tips to the local staff. We recommend that you carry your travel money in the form of Euros since there will be not be any opportunities to change it once you arrive in St Girons, although ATM's are available in St Giron and Luchon. If you are intending to buy considerable quantities of soft drinks or beer, or expensive souvenirs you should budget accordingly.

The group will be lead by a local, English speaking qualified mountain leader.

Tipping is the accepted way of saying ‘thank you’ to you trekking leader and local team. Tipping is entirely voluntary and should be dependent on good service. We advise you to tip as a group.

Whilst trekking you must pack everything, including your sleeping bag, camping mat, mess tin, mug, spoon and a small stove as well as your lunches and the 1 night dinner rations, into one backpack. You must ensure that the backpack is as light as possible. We recommend a 55-65 litre backpack for this purpose. Your main baggage will be left with the support vehicle and will be transferred to Luchon at the end of the trek. We recognise that for some of our holidays and for some of our travellers, the KE Trek Bag (see below) may not provide the best solution when packing for your trip. A bag with fitted wheels or a holdall with more than one compartment and more than one access zip can, in some circumstances, be more appropriate. We have no problem if you choose to use an alternative bag.

All KE clients will receive a FREE KE trek bag.  These have been specially made to stand up to the rigours of adventure travel.  Your KE bag will be posted to you when your trip is guaranteed to run or on receipt of your booking if the trip is already guaranteed.  If you have travelled with us before and already have a KE trek bag you can select an alternative free gift in the booking process.

This holiday involves going to moderately high altitude.  During the course of your trip you will reach altitudes in excess of 2500 metres.  Most people will have no difficulty with this level of altitude but before coming on the holiday, we recommend you read the advice on trekking at high altitude.  You can also talk to one of our trekking experts if you have any concerns about altitude.

A passport with 3 months remaining validity is required. Passport holders from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or any EU countries do not require a visa. Other nationalities should check with the respective consulate in their own country.

Whilst we keep our information up to date, you should be advised that visa requirements can change. It is recommended that you contact the relevant commission in case of recent amendments.

The following checklist should help you with your packing. As a general rule, you should keep the weight of your rucksack to a minimum.

You must bring the following items:

  • Rucksack/Backpack – 55-65 litres
  • Waterproof bags (dry bags) for inside your rucksack
  • Hiking/Walking boots
  • Sleeping bag comfort rating to 0°C
  • Camping mat
  • Socks – technical walking socks are best (2/3 pairs)
  • Trekking Trousers/Pants (not cotton)
  • Waterproof Over trousers (rainpants)
  • Underwear
  • Thermal Base Layer
  • T-shirt or casual shirt
  • Fleece jacket or warm jumper
  • Goretex jacket (with hood)
  • Sunhat
  • Warm hat
  • Eye wear – sunglasses
  • Earplugs (particularly if you are not the one snoring!)
  • Thin gloves
  • Head torch – with new battery
  • Sun protection (including total bloc for lips, nose etc.)
  • Lip salve – with sunscreen
  • Water bottle x 2 litre
  • Trekking poles x 2
  • Pocket-knife (note: always pack sharp objects in hold baggage)
  • Knife (as above), fork/spork, plastic mug, metal mess tin,
  • Small Wash kit and Pack Towel
  • Plastic Bag to keep essentials dry
  • Basic First Aid Kit including: antiseptic cream, throat lozenges, diarrhoea treatment (Imodium), painkillers, plasters and blister treatment, Insect repellent, and re-hydration salts (Dioralite)

The following items are optional:

  • Small padlock (to lock your KE trek bag)
  • Travel Clothes
  • Travel Shoes
  • Shorts
  • Repair kit – (eg. needle, thread, duct tape)
  • Camera, media, spare batteries
  • Gaiters
  • Hill snacks
  • Sleeping bag liner (for use at the cabane & gite)


As you will be carrying your pack for 3 nights along with some of your food supplies, it is essential that you pack light!

For the night in the cabane you will need to bring a metal mess tin, mug and spoon/spork. These items should be as light as possible.

A passport with 6 months remaining validity at the end of your stay is generally required. The information that we provide is for UK passport holders. Please check the relevant embassy or consulate for other nationalities. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct travel documents and visas for your holiday. Visa requirements and charges are subject to change without notice. If you are travelling outside the EU you should have at least 2 blank pages in your passport.

Visa Europe

UK and USA passport holders do not require a visa.

We recommend you check if you require an adaptor for your electrical items at:


The unit of currency in Europe is the Euro.

It makes a lot of sense to spend some time before coming on an this holiday getting some additional exercise. The fitter you are the more enjoyable you will find the experience. While regular hiking is the best preparation, any regular exercise (running, cycling, swimming etc.) is good for developing cardio-vascular fitness. Before setting off we recommend that you make time to fit in several full-day walks in hilly country with a large pack to ensure you have the necessary stamina to walk for long days with a heavy backpack.

You should contact your GP or travel clinic to check whether you require any specific vaccinations. UK residents should obtain a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This entitles you to state provided medical treatment, but is not a substitute for medical travel insurance which is still vital when travelling overseas.

As a reputable tour operator, KE supports the British Foreign & Commonwealth Offices ‘Know before you go’ campaign to enable British citizens to prepare for their journeys overseas, and we recommend that all KE travellers take a look at the FCO Travel Advice for their chosen destination on the official FCO website: www.fco.gov.uk. North Americans can also check out the U.S. Department of State website: www.travel.state.gov for essential travel advice and tips.

KE treat the safety and security of all clients as the most important aspect of any trip we organise. We would not run any trip that we did not consider reasonably safe.  Should the FCO advise against travel for any reason, we will contact everyone booked to travel to discuss the situation.  We receive regular updates direct from the FCO and are in constant touch with our contacts on the ground.  If you have any questions about government travel advice, please call our office.

In summer, the climate is hot and sunny in the valleys and pleasantly cool at the high cols. The months of July and August usually provide the most reliable weather conditions. The temperatures that we can expect to encounter during the day will be quite varied, ranging from 10-25ºC from the lower valleys to the higher cols. It should be noted that mountainous areas generate their own weather systems and stormy weather cannot be ruled out at any time of year.

  • The Cruel Crossing - Edward Stourton
  • The Freedom Trail - Scott Goodall.
  • Nancy Wake – Russell Braddon.
  • Love and War in the Pyrenees - Rosemary Bailey.

IGN 1;25,000, Sheet 2047 OT St Girons and sheet 2048 OT Aulus-les-Bains

Detailed topographic survey of France at 1:25,000, published in two formats, TOP25 and Series Bleue, with GPS compatible UTM grid now provided in all latest editions.

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